OLIVIA MORLEY and NICK BOWMAN
Amanda Browning has taken her love of cooking from farm to fork to brick-and-mortar storefront in Lula.
The owner of Amanda’s Farm to Fork opened her first restaurant in Lula in April after three years wearing many different hats. She’s a wife, mother, cook, farmer — and now she’s an entrepreneur.
Amanda’s Farm to Fork started as a catering business in 2015 after Browning lost her job of 22 years. She decided to start her own meal delivery service that married her loves of cooking and farming.
For three years, Browning roamed the Hall County countryside, delivering home-cooked meals prepared in her own kitchen using ingredients from her 27-acre farm in Lula, where she grows vegetables and harvests farm-fresh eggs.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Browning also maintains her own beehives.
“I just love the whole homesteading atmosphere,” she said in her restaurant on Wednesday.
Over the next couple of years, Browning ran her delivery and catering business from her home. She grew from delivering dinners to catering weddings and bridal showers.
Though she and her husband, Timothy, and their five children, Zakkary, 17, Isabel, 16, Fox, 14, Jaime, 13, and Sofia, 10, dedicated themselves full time to the work — outside of school in East Hall — the demand began to outpace the farm’s kitchen.
“We just couldn’t keep up with the amount of orders we had,” Browning said, “so we needed a bigger place to work.”
In April 2018, Amanda’s Farm to Fork opened a storefront on Main Street in Lula, and it now employs the entire family.
While the building’s exterior remains under renovation, the restaurant is very much open for business.
Breakfast and lunch are the meals springing from Amanda’s farm to your fork if you’re looking to sit down and have a meal at 5951 Main St., where classic country music fills the air along with the scents of cinnamon and sugar from the baked goods in the shop.
The restaurant in Lula is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday tthrough Friday. The family sells breakfast, lunch and dinner through the delivery business.
They’re already seeing strong support from the stomachs of Hall County, where the Brownings are best known for their green and red tomato pies — two savory pies stuffed with tomato, cheese and herbs that, when tomatoes are in season, sell out almost as quickly as they’re made.
“As soon as June comes around and we can get those, we can’t keep them on the shelves,” she said.
And about that “in season” thing — the Brownings do their best to buy all of their produce from local farmers and meats from Harris Meats in Jefferson.
That means some of their recipes go in and out of season depending on what’s coming out of the ground in Hall County that time of year — the way the family and their progenitors have been cooking food in Hall for a century.
Browning’s recipe for Brunswick stew was handed down from her aunt 20 years ago. The restaurant’s barbecue sauce recipe — a sauce based on beer and brown sugar — was created by Amanda’s grandmother more than 40 years ago.
And the best is also the oldest: The family’s mighty tomato pie recipes are more than 100 years old.
Lest you think the Brownings are producing nothing but stick-to-your-ribs farmer’s fare, they can tailor their menus to make them keto, paleo or Whole30 compliant.
And by going with local ingredients and local providers, Amanda’s Farm to Fork has kept prices below online delivery services that are starting to pop up the country over. A week of meals, which is how most of her delivery customers tend to buy them, for two people costs $65.
Soon, Amanda’s Farm to Fork will offer more than food.
“Starting in June, we’re going to have cooking classes,” Browning said. “We’ll have children’s cooking classes Saturday mornings, mid-mornings we’ll have teenager’s cooking classes, then we’ll have night time classes for adults.”
In addition, Browning also sells homemade goat milk soap, fresh honey and sheep’s wool. Browning is hoping to add a grocery section to her shop, where they can sell milk from Mountain Fresh Creamery and locally harvested eggs.
But the Brownings’ bread and butter will always be their delivery business, which they intend to keep up into the future. The family delivers to about 70 groups of customers, many of them senior citizens or working families.
“We wouldn’t want to let them down,” Amanda said. “As long as we’re able to do it, we’re going to do both.”
Browning has had strong support from a community hungry for new and local restaurants and from fellow farm Jaemor Farms and Lula Mayor Jim Grier. Amanda’s Farm to Fork is the third restaurant now open in Lula, according to Grier.
Because of the growing business, Browning hasn’t had the time to tend to her garden on her farm, but she hopes to get back to it once things start to settle down a bit. For now, they plan to rely on their local providers.
Browning hopes that her business will continue growing from its catering roots and become the place in Lula to go to for locally grown farm-fresh products.
“Anything we can grow, we will use,” Browning said.